Ada English: Patriot and Psychiatrist


Brendan Kelly

September 2014.

This is the first biography of this remarkable Irish psychiatrist, who participated in the Easter Rising, the Civil War, and was elected as a Teachta Dála. Ada English revolutionised Ireland’s psychiatric services during her forty-year career at Ballinasloe District Asylum. Brendan Kelly’s biography is a celebration of an extraordinary life reflected in context with other female medical pioneers such as Kathleen Lynn and Dorothy Stopford Price.

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Foreword by Diarmaid Ferriter

This is the untold story of the life and work of Dr Adeline (Ada) English (1875-1944), a pioneering Irish psychiatrist deeply involved in Irish politics. Ada English spent four decades working at Ballinasloe District Lunatic Asylum, during which time she introduced significant therapeutic innovations.

A passionate participant in the Easter Rising, English spent six months in Galway Jail for possessing nationalistic literature and was elected as a Teachta Dála in 1921. A friend to Pearse, McDonagh, Griffith, Mellows, De Valera and others, she became heavily involved in the Civil War.

Brendan Kelly’s engaging and sensitive biography reveals the gifted, compassionate and modest woman behind the revolutionary medical achievements and political engagement, her education and medical training, her forty-year career at Ballinasloe and her position within the context of pioneering Irish medical women, such as Kathleen Lynn and Dorothy Stopford Price. Kelly’s work also shines light on a woman whose abiding concern was for those she cared for – so much so that she requested to be buried alongside her former patients.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Dr Adeline (Ada) English, 1875–1944
1. Background: Childhood and Education, 1875–1903
2. Politics: Cumann na mBan, Easter Rising, War of Independence, Second Dáil and Civil War, 1914–29
3. Medicine: Psychiatry and the Asylum, 1904–42
4. Revolution: Women Doctors in Early Twentieth-Century Ireland, 1900–42
5. Conclusion: The Legacy of Dr Ada English
Appendix: Chronology of the Life and Times of Dr Adeline (Ada) English

About the Author

Brendan Kelly is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at University College Dublin, and Consultant Psychiatrist, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin. He is Editor-in Chief of the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine.